Sunday, 25 September 2011


It was the deep dark night of the soul. 3 a.m to be precise when the Red-Head walked into our bedroom and clambered over me and snuggled down between me and her father.
“I’ve had a bad dream”, she said.
“Have you angel?”, I asked her in whispers, “What was it about?”
“A boy drank all the sea in the world.” I cuddled her tight.
“Through a straw”, she added. A gruesome image for anyone to have to imagine, let alone subconsciously invading your slumber.
“He got bigger and bigger and all the sea creatures were dying on the sand”.
“Hush now”, I soothed, stroking her hair, “It was only a dream”. Nightmares are not only the scourge of infancy, I still have the most alarming dreams that literally make me writhe in bed, sweating and breathing fast.
“That’s just after you’ve been dreaming about Mr Lover-Lover”, said Hubby, squeezing my bottom the following morning as I was trying to explain the previous night’s dramatic events.
I slapped him off. “Seriously. It’s awful. I dreamt there was a cliff falling down on people, only it was as hot as molten lava and I had no alternative but to keep driving towards it. There were no road closures. Charred bodies lay everywhere”.
“Bloody hell Alice”.
“I know, it was horrific. What does it mean? And what does it mean that our little Red-Head is having shocking, apocalyptic, ocean dreams. It makes wonder whether Jacques Cousteau is communicating with her beyond the grave.” Hubby looked at me askance.
“Don’t be mad Alice. I’ll tell you what that dream meant”. He is not renowned for his dream interpretations. Joseph of, Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat fame, he is not. So I waited for his verdict. This should be interesting.
“Come again?” I asked, blinking at him.
“Cheese. It’s a well known antagonist where nightmares are concerned. It gives you the collywobbles”. He said the last word with as much gusto as one who has just discovered some rare and virulent disease.
“Oh good grief. You sound like my great-aunt Bessie. Collywobbles indeed and that is your scientific analysis is it?”
“Well, thanks all the same, but I shan’t be accessing Dr Band’s encyclopaedic knowledge of dreams and rare disorders any time soon”.
“Suit yourself but you mark my word, a bit of cheddar before bedtime plays havoc with your psyche”.
I went to work. A world away from family and nightmares and the confines of the domestic kitchen, is that of the kitchen of a café, which in summer, allows me to escape mine. It is as far removed from a familial kitchen as can be imagined. At least for me it is. The food that emerges from the metaphoric swing-doors has been previously carefully selected by the customer, and expertly cooked by the chef. At no point does anyone ask, with sullen attitude, “What’s for lunch?” or riffle through the shelves and biscuit tins and sigh. Then, when the food is served, no-one, absolutely no-one whines, “Oh but you know I don’t like crab salad/smoked fish platter/bacon, avocado and mozzarella sandwiches”. In fact, when I put their plates in front of them, the customers, without fail, remark, “Oh thank-you! This looks delicious” and then, as if that weren’t enough, they remind their children, “Darling what do you say?”. “Thank-you very much”, the little, beautifully, brought up darling remembers.
In a commercial kitchen neither are you on your own, forgotten about whilst your family sits in other rooms, waiting for you to chime, “Dinner’s ready”. The chef is not brow beaten and defeated, attempting hundreds of tasks singlehandedly, yes, she may be very, very busy but, at least she is producing food that people are going to enjoy and, ultimately pay for.
Maybe this is where I am going wrong. Vive la revolution I say. Imagine if you will, a world where our children and spouses are given a daily menu, a simple table d’hote where there are a few items on it. Sausage and mash; jacket spud and cheese and beans; spag bol/chilli con carne. The last two items are easily interchangeable - just add kidney beans and chilli powder. Off that list they can order what they want. I often cook various meals to suit different palates so that would be no particular challenge, then, when their plates are empty, which they will be because what they ate was after all what they chose and not, what was after all their mother’s whim to cook that day, I would present them with a bill. The eldest have part time jobs, the youngest pocket money. They can afford it. I cannot believe I’ve never thought of this before. Like I said, it’s revolutionary.
And so, as I pirouetted around the café, making coffees and milkshakes and serving English breakfasts and cream teas, I relished every moment. My heart sank as I turned the open to closed sign on the door and after cleaning up, went home. It sank even further on seeing Hubby’s face.
“Hiya”, I said, kissing him, “I didn’t expect to see you here. Where is the car?”
“At the garage. The AA man spent three hours trying to fix it. To no avail”. That night Hubby sat bold upright in bed. He was dripping in sweat and his heart was pounding.
“Bloody hell what’s the matter?”
“Jeeze, I just dreamt the car was knackered.”
“We haven’t had it long have we, it’s bound to be a spark plug or something.” That something was a new engine. A new engine? You’d have to eat a wheel of cheese to give you these kinds of collywobbles, only it’s a thousand pound living nightmare and no bloody dream.

No comments: